February 9th, 2021

krazy koati

The end of laughter and soft lies

And then the world came to an end.

bunny_hugger is losing her job. The department is laying off all the non-tenure-line philosophy faculty, part of a catastrophic set of cutbacks. It's theoretically possible she might be able to stay one more year, a replacement for someone scheduled for sabbatical. But even that would be a fluke, and postpone the misery rather than avoid it. And it might be the cutbacks have to be even more than this. If there is a great recovery in the school's fortunes in the next two years, she would be eligible to reinstatement, but where would such a turnaround come from? Or, if their survival plan is a disaster, what are the odds they would reverse the plan so fast rather than soldier on to greater failure?

However devastating you think this is, please rest assured: it is worse than that. Besides the loss to bunny_hugger's career, and the lack of other jobs of the same caliber and quality to move to, it's also revealing just how much I've never come to terms with my failure in Academia. The weekend has been miserable and I don't know which of us is taking it worse and she doesn't know either and that's making things only worse still. I can't take a deep breath without it turning into weeping. I know I've been stuck grief-eating, where I'm always starving and don't want to eat anything and when I do I can't imagine why I would put this food in my mouth and afterwards I don't feel any less empty. I've lost three pounds since Friday, though to be fair I've had fluctuations like that in normal times.

My thoughts keep coming back to anger. We were good. We did everything right. We quarantined. We haven't been socializing. We haven't gone anywhere except to the store to buy things we need, as quick as possible. If everyone had treated the pandemic like we have, it would have been contained by September and we would be living in battered but normal times again. We did everything to keep the pandemic from hurting her school, her job, and we're losing it anyway.

bunny_hugger is not sure it's fair to blame this on Covid-19. Her university has been facing declining enrollments for years. Unless the demographers are very mistaken, that decline will continue for about five years and then enrollments drop off a cliff. This may be, but if you are run over by a speeding car crossing the street to the hospital, it's not your clogged arteries that killed you. And having three years to prepare for the disaster is different from having four months.

This morning I found a voice mail from my brother, the one who understands jobs and networking and all, but talking about Star Trek Discovery. I thought he'd been tipped off by my parents and was talking about the show to give me a pretext to call him that wasn't ``I'm in despair''. Not so. He didn't more than dimly remember having called me about this and we have no idea how long it's sat in my voice mail unheard. I suppose I need to check my phone more often. Also I need a phone that saves date and time with voice mails, but it hasn't doen that since I got the phone in 2008 so why would it start now.

But he does think that I've got options at least. That my work might be talked into giving me a pay raise --- I haven't had one since I moved out in 2012 --- or covering benefits. Or both. He pointed out that he knows of remote jobs which, if I could get certified in some computer thingy, would let me command a heck of a lot more money. Like, a hundred thousand dollars more than I'm making now. I knew I was underpaid, and took it gladly for the lifestyle it offers, in which I have a very low-stress low-deadline low-supervision job where I can just go off on a roller coaster tour for nine days without asking. Plus I occasionally get a paid trip back to New Jersey to touch the memory of old home. I would hate to give that up. But, boy, to think of all the anxieties that could be obliterated at that rate ... to suddenly become one of those suspiciously-wealthy furries ... it is a terrifying thing to consider and to consider that might be right.

I'm haunted by the things we had set somewhere on Thursday, to take care of later. Little things, like a bag of loose-leaf tea or the broccoli I was going to use to make Knorr pasta dinners fuller, or my Christmas books or the jigsaw puzzle bunny_hugger hasn't yet finished. All these small things that once held goodness. The house is full of empty things.

I want what we had a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, and hate that this is the impossible.

Trivia: As the Apollo 14 Command Module and Lunar Module braked ahead of docking, telemetry indicated that the abort guidance system had failed. No caution and warning signs were on in the spacecraft, though, and cycling the switches and circuit breakers did not clear up the problem. Source: Apollo By The Numbers: A Statistical Reference, Richard W Orloff. NASA SP-4029.

Currently Reading: Cracking the Cube: Going Slow to Go Fast and Other Unexpected Turns in the World of Competitive Rubik's Cube Solving, Ian Scheffler.